Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 101: A Technology Primer with Example Use Cases
Publication Date: June 2014
The inclusion of BLE in smartphones held by consumers is expanding rapidly. As enabled devices become more common, a range of user benefits become available across a number of market verticals. These can include, but are not limited to, venue management, event management, retail customer relationship management, food services, transportation, payment, access control, and facilities management.
BLE can serve both as a complement to and a replacement for a variety of wireless connectivity options, including NFC, WiFi, and bar code technologies. By combining cost-effective deployment of location-aware peripherals with a power-efficient, secure, and responsive communications protocol, the technology can facilitate the rapid exchange of information, including location and promotion data.
Operationally, environments such as event management facilities, retail, restaurants, and public transit can benefit from BLE’s ability to facilitate frictionless engagement between the consumer’s smartphone, the local terminal infrastructure, and cloud-based applications. Consumers and business operators can share valuable location data that can drive rewards, tailor offerings to be more customer centric, and enable more efficient operations and better customer service.
While there are a variety of security methodologies available to tailor security levels to the needs of the application, the nature of BLE with its long distance pairing creates opportunities for tracking of individuals, eavesdropping on transactions, spoofing of beacons, and monitoring of behavior. Consumers will need to be educated about the characteristics of these technologies and the implications of their opt-in choices. App developers will have to be vigilant in applying security strategies and technologies appropriate to their applications.
As security concerns are addressed, BLE may become a common and trusted transport layer for mobile marketing, mobile services, and, potentially, mobile payment. It is likely to grow initially as a complement to current technologies, as business concerns and related applications deal with evolving security practices and current merchant infrastructure and systems. Similarly, as the trust in BLE grows, the market will likely witness further expansion in access control and other applications.
The white paper was developed to provide an educational resource on BLE, describing what it is, how it’s used, how it fits with other mobile technologies and what security aspects should be considered for BLE-enabled applications. The white paper:
- Defines BLE, including the key features that can benefit businesses and consumers
- Explores the origins of BLE’s development, the BLE design principles, and the applications to which it can respond
- Discusses BLE in the context of possible applications for, but not limited to, venue management, event management, retail customer relationship management, food services, transportation, and payment
- Details use cases that illustrate category-specific issues and stimulate thought on how to overcome constraints and explore new applications
- Compares BLE with similar technologies, such as WiFi, GPS, NFC, and QR codes; the comparison identifies BLE’s advantages and disadvantages and discusses how technologies may complement each other to enrich the application experience
- Discusses security as it relates to BLE’s use for payments, mobile marketing, and mobile commerce
About the White Paper
This white paper was developed by the Smart Card Alliance Mobile Council to provide an educational resource on Bluetooth low energy, describing what it is, how it’s used, how it fits with other mobile technologies, and what security aspects should be considered for BLE-enabled applications.
Members involved in the development of this white paper included: Advanced Card Systems Ltd.; Booz Allen Hamilton; Capgemini USA Inc.; CH2M Hill; Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc.; Discover Financial Services; First Data Corporation; Fiserv; Giesecke & Devrient; Heartland Payment Systems; Identification Technology Partners; Ingenico; Intercede; IQ Devices; Morpho; NXP Semiconductors; Oberthur Technologies; Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
About the Mobile Council
The Smart Card Alliance Mobile Council was formed to raise awareness and accelerate the adoption of secure payments, loyalty, marketing, promotion/coupons/offers, peer-to-peer, identity, and access control applications using mobile and tethered wearable devices The Council focuses on activities that will help to educate the industry on implementation and security considerations and will act as a bridge between technology development/specification and the applications that can deliver business benefits to industry stakeholders.
The Council takes a broad industry view and brings together industry stakeholders in the different vertical markets that can benefit from secure mobile applications. The Council collaborates on:
- Educating the market on the technology and the value of secure mobile applications
- Developing best practices for implementation
- Working on identifying and overcoming issues inhibiting the industry